For the first time in a long time, the New York Knicks are a legitimate basketball team. The haunting memories of 2014-15 are beginning to dissipate as a brighter future intrigues New York’s faithful.
Unfortunately, an issue from both 2013-14 and 2014-15 has re-emerged in 2015-16: the Knicks can’t close out games.
Carmelo Anthony should be able to handle those duties, but he’s six games into his return from knee surgery. Arron Afflalo is notoriously clutch, as well, but he’s missed all six regular season games with a hamstring injury.
With both players hobbled to differing extents, New York’s matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday, November 6 went as pessimistically expected.
The end result was a 99-92 defeat at the hands of a team that New York dominated less than two weeks prior.
The haunting truth is that the Knicks had a shot to win after tying the game with less than eight minutes on the clock. In front of the home crowd at Madison Square Garden, New York then allowed the Bucks to go on an 11-2 run.
With 3:05 remaining, it was 92-83 Milwaukee—a massive shift from the 81-81 score at the 7:34 mark.
New York then gave up a costly offensive rebound, turned to Sasha Vujacic in the clutch and dropped to 0-3 at Madison Square Garden—a very Knicks thing to do.
It was a disappointing result in yet another game that could’ve been won down the stretch. Anthony is frustrated, as previously alluded to, but he isn’t the only one.
Kristaps Porzingis, a rookie, is taking accountability for the loss.
As admirable and impressive as that mentality is, Porzingis is the last player on the list of those deserving blame.
Porzingis played 28 minutes against the Bucks, recording 14 points, 13 rebounds, nine offensive boards, one assist, a block and one 3-point field goal made. He shot 6-of-13 from the field and recorded yet another put-back dunk.
Very quickly, this is becoming Porzingis’ signature play:
The jury is still out on his star potential, but Phil Jackson found a very intriguing player at No. 4 overall in the 2015 NBA Draft.
Porzingis’ ability to control the offensive glass resulted in New York creating otherwise unattainable offense. It poured in 24 second chance points, which accounted for 26.1 percent of its total scoring.
Unfortunately, New York struggled to do much of anything when there wasn’t a second-chance point to be had.
Those plays are extraordinary, but they shouldn’t be the extent of New York’s offensive efficiency.
The Knicks shot just 40.7 percent from the field and 16.7 percent from 3-point range. It was 4-of-24 from beyond the arc, with four players attempting multiple 3-point field goals and converting zero.
In other words, the Knicks couldn’t hit a 3-point field goal if they paid the rim to let it happen and they still attempted them without relent.
To make matters worse, New York lost the turnover battle by a count of 15 to 12. It came up with just three steals, missed free throws when they mattered most and allowed 48 points in the paint.
Plays like this certainly didn’t help:
It was a frustrating loss that could’ve been a win.
For all of the inconsistency, New York still had the game tied in the fourth quarter. In the four minutes and 50 seconds that followed, however, New York failed in every way imaginable.
Derrick Williams‘ missed layup was followed by a shot clock violation, two more turnovers and a 25-foot 3-point field goal attempt. It was a dreadful combination of play design and execution.
Including a meaningless Vujacic layup with 10 seconds on the clock, New York made a total of two field goals in the final 8:25 of the game.
New York is waiting for that Carmelo Anthony to return.
It was an ugly showing that reminded Knicks fans of the previous two losses. It led 75-74 with 7:57 remaining in the fourth quarter before losing 96-86 to the Cleveland Cavaliers in regulation.
For those uninterested in doing the math, Cleveland outscored New York 21-11 in the final 7:13 of the game.
Against the San Antonio Spurs, New York fell 94-84. It trailed by just five points with 6:46 remaining, but San Antonio outscored New York 10-5 the rest of the way.
The final seven-to-eight minutes of games have been unkind to the Knicks thus far.
The silver lining is that every New York has lost to reached the playoffs in 2014-15. Losses are losses, however, and at least three of them could’ve been wins.
The question is, when will the Knicks reverse their fourth quarter misfortunes? If it doesn’t happen fast, this season may get away from them